Is Deontic Evaluation Capable of Doing What it is For?

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Many philosophers think the distinctive function of deontic evaluation is to guide action. This idea is used in arguments for a range of substantive claims. In this paper, we entirely do one completely destructive thing and partly do one not entirely constructive thing. The first thing: we argue that there is an unrecognized gap between the claim that the function of deontic evaluation is to guide action and attempts to put that claim to use. We consider and reject four arguments intended to bridge this gap. The interim conclusion is thus that arguments starting with the claim that the function of deontic evaluation is to guide action have a lacuna. The second thing: we consider a different tack for making arguments of this sort work. We sketch a methodology one could accept that would do the trick. Unfortunately, as we’ll explain, although this methodology would bridge the gap in arguments that put claims about the function of deontic evaluation to work, it would do so in a way that vitiates any interest we might have in such arguments. As an aside, we’ll also point out how epistemologists, who have recently become interested in the function of epistemic evaluation, appear to already recognize this fact. The conclusion is hence a dilemma: either arguments from deontic function to substance have a lacuna or such arguments lack teeth.
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Archival date: 2021-05-17
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